My Day with God: Lessons I Learned

If you are a Christian, I would wholeheartedly recommend spending an extended time—anywhere from a half a day to a whole day with God–in serious, focused worship, at least every several months, so your spirit will be renewed and rejuvenated.   This can mean singing along with praise/worship songs and/or hymns, digging deeper into His Word, praying and meditating on His Word.  I had tried to spend an extended time before with little result. Yesterday, however, was different. It’s like God opened the floodgates of His power and His teachings into my life in a more resounding way than I only had experienced on retreats with groups of people and never in my personal time with God! Here are some of the many things I learned:

1.) Don’t fight with people–fight the Enemy: In a book I read ( Fervent  by Priscilla Shirer. You can buy it at this link: Fervent), I learned that when we have strife, anger, or resentment against another person, especially after an argument or fight with them, we are catering to the Enemy–the devil.  People are not the Enemy. The devil is.  Yes, it’s natural to have anger towards another person sometimes, and everyone has, even Christians–even me! However, what I learned is not to let that anger control you or worsen your relationships. If more people realized and believed that a sinister being and evil spirits are behind most of our quarrels with others, then I believe more people would be apt to turn to God in prayer and have mercy towards the person who had offended them.

2.) Forgive as you have been forgiven: This one was actually review for me,  but I needed this refresher, and I bet many people reading this may need it too.  There are many misconceptions out there about forgiveness, which is part of the reason I think it’s so difficult for many people to actually forgive biblically! First of all, when you forgive, it’s not giving a free pass to the offender. The offender still needs to make reparations and repent in order to actually receive it for him or herself.  He or she also can face judgment for the offense if it is very serious. The very act of you having to forgive them means that the offender actually did something that you think was wrong and sinful! Also, forgiving one who offended you, is actually for you more than it is for them. It helps you be free of the tormenting memories of hurt and anger that flash through your mind every time you think of or interact with them and of poisoning your other relationships (which, in fact, does happen. Trust me. I’ve witnessed it and experienced it myself when I struggled with unforgiveness.) with your carried-over anger and resentment of the original offender.

3.) Do all things without grumbling or complaining….and with that: Be a voice of encouragement, rather than a voice of complaining or gossiping. – This is by far the toughest for me, because, in my fleshly state, I grumble and complain too much for my own good.  I found that when I complain about someone or something, I not only tend to get angrier and angrier, I also get somewhat depressed and discouraged. I think this is no accident—The devil had already planted seeds of discontentment in my heart, causing me to get emotionally down and discouraged, instead of  being grateful and joyful. However, when I intentionally aim to encourage another person or stop myself from complaining about someone, I tend to feel better about myself and my circumstances. Sometimes, if I am in a bad situation and I try to not grumble and complain about it, it passes without incident. I remember today, I was particularly angry with someone and wanted to complain to a manager about this person, but found that a.) I didn’t have time for that. and b.) It was no longer important to me to complain about them.  Also, in the past when I felt overwhelmed by the work assigned me at my job, I used to constantly complain that it was too much. After my time with God yesterday, I knew the work was going to be a lot and I didn’t really have even enough time to complete everything I wanted to get done, but I was able to get a lot done and not be overly upset about it.

4.) Have more sṓphrōn, which means self-control, of a sound mind. -I learned that I need to control my anger better and have more self-control about certain things I won’t get into now.  I learned that all self-control really starts in the mind. I also learned from various sources that if I wanted to have more self-control and be biblical, that I should read and memorize His Word more. I also learned that a key element of self-control is patience. I learned that having patience and self-control accomplish several things: a.) They prevent you from disaster–either physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. b.) It helps you delay gratification, so you can receive the better or best thing because you were able to wait for it. c.) It helps you be a more grateful person in that you learn to cope the best you can in the situation you are in without yearning too much for the thing which you are waiting.

These are the four major things I learned, and hopefully start to apply to my life.  I hope you, the reader, also can take away something from these lessons and apply them to your own life.  God has taught me so much in my life. I can’t wait for all He has in store for me- for all of us!

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On agape love

There are at least three different kinds of love in the Konoia Greek (i.e Biblical Greek) language:

phileo- Means a love based on a mutual affection for the other, a friendship, basically

(source: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G5368)

eros- Means a romantic kind of love, based on physical affection and attraction for another

agape (or agapaō)-  Means a deep-rooted love, not based only on merit or affection, but more of an unconditional, merciful kind of love

While phileo and especially eros  type of love is everywhere, agape love is sorely lacking in most societies in this day and age.  Agape love is God’s love as I have shared in an earlier post. It is the love of Jesus when He washed His disciples feet, even though they were all going to leave and betray Him, and even though He would suffer much anguish because of them and all the rest of humanity! It is the love of God when He spares His people from harm, even when they have sinned against Him again and again on purpose.

There are many hurting people in this world today; even we hurt sometimes. I spoke with several people today who were hurting or stressed. Sadly, most of them felt like that only a few people even cared about their hurt.  Sometimes, other people take advantage of their hurt and exploit them to their own ends. How sad in both scenarios indeed!  What is needed is true, constant, agape love. 

How to demonstrate agape-type love to a hurting world: 

1.) Invest in other people: Sure there are times to attend to our own needs, but we need to make more of a concerted effort to reach out to others, especially those who are hurting. We can do this by volunteering to help people in need, being kind and gracious,  giving a listening ear, or simply by passionate, specific prayer for people in our lives that are hurting or need prayer.

2.) Never give up on people.: In my personal life, there have been some people that have “rubbed me the wrong way,” but I never want to give up on loving them as Christ would, because I wouldn’t want to be given up on by God or them either, when I am in need.  Of course, there are times when we may need to “give up” certain people, such as if they are becoming unrepentantly abusive or are physically endangering us in some way.  However, we still can pray and/or hope they return to their senses.  Also, when we are kind even to those who are not kind back, we are “heaping burning coals on their heads,” so to speak. That is, at least in my experience, they will either a.) accumulate judgment for themselves in eternity if they continue to be mean to us OR b.) They will start to feel guilty about treating us badly, and start to be kinder to us in the future.

3.) Forgive, forgive, forgive- Along with #2, we need to be able and willing to forgive those who have hurt us in the past, not only to show God’s love to them, but also to free us of bitterness, anger and resentment against them. Unforgiveness robs us of joy and peace, and it also poisons our other relationships, because we often displace our anger unto other innocent people without realizing it.  It robs us of joy and peace, because, at least in my experience, we (I) tend to brood over how the other person or persons hurt me and how much I’m now suffering because of that person or persons.  That often leads to self-pity and depression.

4.) Listen and be compassionate.- We, as a society, need to do a better job of listening to people. One of my former pastors said that a lot of people in this world today just want to be heard. The problem is they feel that no one’s listening.  What a sad indictment!  To help you listen, ask questions about what the person is talking about. Affirm the other person’s feelings always. Never dismiss another person’s beliefs or feelings as irrelevant.  For instance, if a person vents to you about a problem with one of their relationships, instead of blaming them for that problem or saying something like, “You think you got it bad, let me tell you about….”, tell them, ” I am sorry you are having problems with person “X”. Is there anything I can do to help support you in this difficult time?”  Also, don’t offer unsolicited advice. Just being there and listening is good enough for most people.

 

Agape love is what I strive for in all my relationships with people, and what I believe God wants for all of us.  We all need to strive for this kind of love too, if we want that kind of love in return.  I understand that our hurt and sometimes lack of trust for others, especially towards those who have hurt us, may make this more difficult, but with God’s help, this is not impossible. For those who I haven’t loved this way, I am very sorry, and I will strive to do better by you in the future.  For those that need this type of love, please know that there are people out there who do care about you.  They may be difficult to find, but trust me they are out there.  For the rest of us who know and experience this love on a daily basis, either or both by God and others, I have this question for you: Who can you agape love today?

My Purpose in Life-and how to find yours

I see many people just doing things “because they have to” or without really thinking about why they are doing certain things.  I believe that is partly why there is a lack of joy and purpose in many people’s lives.  For many years, especially before Christ took a hold of my heart and life, this is where I was at too. I just did things just to do them. I learned after an incident in fourth or fifth grade in elementary school that I had to do certain things that I disliked, so I learned to do certain things “just to get them over with.” Sadly it wasn’t after I became a Christian and maybe even very recently that I learned to do things with intent and purpose. Here’s what I learned on my journey to discover what my purpose and meaning in my life, and more importantly what my purpose in life is personally.

My purpose in life:   My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s confession, which says:  The chief end of man [or purpose of humans] is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever    (Source: http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm).

Three questions to ask yourself (using my life as an example) to determine what your purpose in life is:     

1.) Why are you doing what you’re doing? I would recommend writing down all your daily activities (even waking up!) for a week and asking yourself after each one, “Why am I doing this?” We do things for different reasons, but after you  have compiled all this after a week, look to see if there is an underlying theme to why you do things. That is your purpose in life. If you think you have a good purpose in life, cultivate this and make sure that you are doing everything to achieve that end goal or purpose.  For instance, in the course of just a day, here would be some of my main activities and why I do them:

Activity                                           Why I do them?

daily devotions                             glorify God, to get to know Him better

driving to work                             so I get to work on time

working                                         glorify God, to make a difference in other people’s lives

eating /drinking                           to gain energy for working; hungry

talking to people online              to form relationships with them, to make a difference in their lives, show I care

2.) Search for truth– To have a good purpose in life, you need to be completely honest with yourself and others. Don’t make excuses for why you do things or explain things away. Also, always search for truth. For me, the truth is contained in the Bible, God’s Word to mankind. For others, truth may be in what they see or observe, or in their experiences. Truth is very important to be able to find. It helps you have solid footing on your purpose in life. Find it; cultivate it.

3.) After you figure out why you do the things you do, tailor everything you do to that end. For me, my purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. I try to permeate that purpose into every activity of my life. I do not want to compartmentalize my life into different sections, each not affecting the other. When you find out the purpose of your life, beware of  the compartmentalization of your life. For instance, if you want to make a difference in others’ lives, make sure you not only do well in this at your job, but your home life as well, and everything in between.  If you are a Christian (or any other faith system), make sure if that plays a role in your purpose in life that it permeates everything in your life.

When you apply these techniques to your life, at least for me, I have found that my life is more joyous and purpose-filled than just wandering aimlessly throughout life. Like my faith hero Rachel Joy Scott, I don’t want to be labeled as “average;” I want to be and do something great with my life, not because I am someone great, but because my God is, and He deserves nothing less!

Jesus’ Love for Mankind (and how to cultivate it)

Disclaimer: Will have religious/Christian content. So, please note that and NO disparaging comments or they will be deleted. Thank you. This post is also made in honor of Rachel Joy Scott, who died 18 years ago today, because she lived with so much love and grace even in the face of suffering.

Almost all of us have heard the song/phrase, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” but this phrase can get so trite that it almost loses its meaning and depth.  When people quote that song lyric or phrase to me, I want to say, ” Well, do you know how much Jesus loves you?” From professing Christians, I would probably hear, “Sure, He died for my sins!” From others, it would probably be, “Yes, He loves everyone!” Both responses would lack the depth and the height and the width of His love! In fact, anything I say cannot compare to how much He loves us!

I was doing my devotions yesterday, and am doing New Testament on weekdays, and Psalms (eventually Proverbs) on weekends. I was on John 13 yesterday, and was struck by HOW MUCH Jesus loved His disciples, and by implication, us too!  Jesus loved His disciples SO much that He was willing to wash His disciples’ feet. Usually, this service was reserved for Non-Jewish slaves, not a Jewish rabbi, as His disciples revered Him as! And certainly, it was not the picture of God they had in mind!  He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, who would so callously betray Him just hours later. And Jesus knew this too! He also washed Peter’s feet, who would deny even knowing Him hours later. Of course, Jesus also knew this, as well as the other disciples, who would desert Him in His time of need. (John 18:25-27, Mark 14:50) Jesus also did this humble act of love, just before He was to die a most brutal death for our (and their) sins, and He knew that too!  Not only did Jesus wash His disciples’ feet, but He also served them a meal (i.e.. The Last Supper). This is why we should strive not only to life for (or be responsible for) ourselves, but also for others, even our enemies, as well.

While there are times when we need what I call “self-care” to be re-energized and recharged so we can better serve others, living completely for only oneself is not good either, as this following anecdote I posted on Facebook will illustrate.

In September of 2009, Majorie Orbin was convicted of murdering her husband Jay Orbin in a most brutal fashion. During her marriage, she had had several affairs..and already been married 6 other times. Her credo that drove this lifestyle was this, in her own words: At 18, I was told that I could not have children. So I made a conscious decision at that point in my life I would only be responsible for myself. I danced, I traveled. I worked hard, played hard, went through a few marriages.

But this is how it is when Jesus takes hold of your heart and you make a conscious decision to live for others (also from my Facebook-bold emphasis mine):

 In about the year 1999, I was suffering from depression and lived a very selfish lifestyle. I wasn’t what people would call a “bad person,” but I WAS to an extent only responsible for myself—being successful in school was an idol. Like Majorie, I was looking for people to love and accept me for who I was and not really finding true joy in that search.

Then, sometime in the year 2000, Jesus Christ took a hold of my heart and life. Today I am in my 30s, and like Majorie I can’t have children either (namely because I haven’t been able to find a significant other yet). Because of Christ, I have made a conscious decision to serve God and others the best way I can, even if sometimes this is exhausting, not because I’m some saint (trust me, I’m NOT), but because Jesus is my Lord and Savior and He deserves nothing less! Praise Jesus,and thank you all, my life overall has been nothing short of AMAZING!

So, like Jesus, we should strive to live for and serve God and others, through our attitudes, words and actions by willing to help others out even in the times we don’t feel like it or we feel we have nothing left to give by drawing upon God’s strength to help you.  This is especially true when we have to serve people whom we don’t like or are hard to love, because when we show them our love, it shows that a.) We won’t give up on them  b.) We are “heaping burning coals on their head” (i.e….they will start to feel bad or pronounce judgment on themselves for treating us badly–because why would you treat someone badly who treats you so well?!)  c.) Who we belong to (Jesus) not our own sinful selves.  I admit that I don’t always succeed at doing this, but God is teaching me slowly how to love everyone–even those who give me a difficult time. May you do the same, and find your life so rewarding and fulfilling in the process!

Why God Allows Suffering

*triggers* : Mentions suicide

Suffering can be described as the gift no one wants, but it comes anyway. It teaches us lessons we never wanted to  learn (or not).  I (personally) have often wished that God didn’t allow suffering and that we could learn life’s lessons some other way. Sometimes, sadly, I have even doubted God’s goodness and justice when I was suffering. However, when I study passages in the Bible like John 9 (about a man born blind and Jesus heals him), I begin to understand WHY  God allows suffering and what we can learn from God’s character and how we should care for those who are suffering.

Reasons God allows suffering

  1. To refine our character- Some of you know that I experienced bullying in various forms when I was going to school, and I felt like no one really accepted me as I was or wanted my company.  Also, I have had experiences with being jobless and other various trials. I’ve had to deal with difficult people (as I’m sure all of you have), and felt like I was being abused and/or discounted as a person. I tell you this not so you will feel sorry for me, but to explain to you that God has used all these experiences to help refine my character. I believe that as a result of these experiences that God has worked through me to be a more compassionate and caring person, and less my selfish, sinful self.  Before I became a Christian, I was an extremely selfish person, but God has used these trials even before I was a Christian to help break down these walls of self-indulgence and self-absorption. Maybe there have been trials God has used in your life to help refine you and help others who are going through the same or similar things you are going through.
  2. To alert us to the fact that we need Him-If I didn’t go through some of the unpleasant things that I have, I probably would have never been a Christian or known how much I needed God.  I know people who have gone through very little trials in their lives that don’t even know they need God, or feel that God is not that important in their lives.  It is true that some people who go through stuff feel the same way about God, but it probably has to do with the fact that they don’t understand why God would allow them to suffer, rather than the suffering itself.  But when you suffer, it is often in these times when you grow closer to God and realize that you have needed Him all along.  In fact, in my testimony, I mention how I felt depressed before and felt that there wasn’t much meaning in my life. It is in the depths of my despair when I was in tenth grade, that God found and rescued me.
  3. To allow God’s glory to shine through you– When we suffer, especially as a Christian, we are able to use these experiences to glorify God. For instance, if someone is dealing with a difficult person but still tries to be kind to him or her, God can use this experience to bring him or her (i.e..the difficult person) into a relationship with Himself.  Or if a person is going through a physical illness, God can use that experience in his or her life to bring about miraculous healing or for that person to heal others. This is also why God allowed the blind man in John 9 to be born that way. God knew that allowing blindness into this man’s life, would bring about later, not only physical healing for that blind man, but spiritual healing as well.  Though he was kicked out of his religious community, the blind man thought it was worth it because he knew he could trust Jesus and thus followed Him.
  4. To alert us to what’s really important– Often when we are in trials, God uses these to alert us to what is really important, so we stop being distracted by minutia. For instance, if you are going through the trial of losing a loved one or a loved one is sick or in the hospital, a reaction that you may have is to spend more quality time with them or with the people who remain more. We become more intentional about doing the Most Important things with God and others, and leave the Less Important things to the side, which is how we should do things.

How We Should React to Another’s Suffering

  1. NEVER EVER discount what another person is going through! Everyone does not react the same way to suffering and it affects each person differently and to a different degree. For instance, when a person is being treated unfairly, one may react with anger or rage, while the other person may become despondent or feel hopeless.  Don’t call the despondent person “weak” for feeling the way they do. Always validate the person suffering.  It may help them see that you care about them and make them feel less alone.
  2. Be kind– Along with validating the other person’s suffering, ask how you can help them through it. Be there for them.  Tell them that they are NOT alone. Go out of your way to be kind and appreciative of them in a genuine way. Show you care for them. One thing I did was to send them a card to show them how much they are loved and cared for not only by God, but also by me.
  3. Don’t assign blame or rejoice in their suffering– Never assign blame for a person’s suffering, even if they are at fault. Now is not the time to revel  in their suffering or beat someone down either! Instead, be willing to be there for them and mourn with them in their pain.  If you are willing to mourn and be there for them, they will know that someone out there cares for them and for what they are going through.
  4. Listen to them– Listen to them attentively in their suffering. Offer words of validation and comfort. Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Only offer advice to them if they are willing (i.e.. ask for it) and are ready to receive it. Otherwise, it just leaves both parties frustrated.

If you are suffering right now, I want you to know that I care for you and that I am willing to listen to you.  If you are suffering so much that you are considering ending it all, please see this  before you do anything drastic and/or call 1-800-Suicide. There is always HOPE for you, but only when you are alive.   If you are not, and are happy with your life right now, please be willing to reach out to someone who is suffering so that they know that you care. It can save lives!

How to be a Friend to Sinners

DISCLAIMER: This post is based on the ideas contained in the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. Please no religious/Christian debates or demeaning others or me, or your comment(s) will be deleted.  Otherwise, ALL positive comments always allowed and happy reading. Also, this post is directed primarily for those who identify as Christians, but I think anyone can identify with at least some part of this post.  Here is the LYRIC video to the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns:

 

We are all sinners (i.e..morally corrupt or imperfect). To say otherwise, is to not face reality and the fact that no one (except Jesus) is perfect.  However, when we judge the wounded and even the sinful by relishing in their condemnation and judgment by God, we are doing a disservice not only to them, but to our testimony of the gospel message as well. Many people who don’t go to church have told me in so many words that they feel that they need to “clean up their act,” so to speak, not to be right with God, but to even feel loved and accepted as a fellow image-of-God bearer at a church! How sad!  The church should be a hospital for the broken, not a prison where we point fingers and try to hide our imperfections because of fear of judgment or reprisal!

From what I have learned in my life, here is how I’ve found are the most effective ways to relate to people (i.e..sinners) both Christian and non-Christian, particularly those who are struggling…..

1.) Make every effort to make people feel loved and accepted by you.—This does not mean never judge someone’s actions, especially if they are living in a sinful way and profess to be a Christian. However, this does mean being a light in a dark world. It does mean to help a person see that despite any of their sinful habits or choices, that God can and will always forgive a repentant heart, and that you will always love them. No matter what.  It also does mean to never judge a person’s heart or intent, especially if you aren’t 100% sure what it is. Leave that judging to God.  This also means seeking out the best in them, and helping cultivate those qualities. It means investing in their lives.

2.) Live a Christ-centered life– Make sure that if you are a Christian, your life reflects Christ. Repent of anything that is not Christlike in your life, and offer to make amends for your sins.  Have integrity—-This means not only being honest in all of your dealings, but also being forthcoming about your shortcomings and failures as a person.  This means striving to be honest even if it costs you something.  If you are married or dating, be faithful to your partner or spouse.  Make sure you are making a commitment to be regularly spending time with God in His Word and prayer. Make sure you are committed to a community of believers that can help you through your journey of faith.

3.) Realize how merciful God has been to you, and impart the same to others.–When we realize how much grace and blessings we get from God that we don’t deserve, we find it easier to impart the same to others. Out of an overflowing and grateful heart, we want to give the same mercy He gave us to others. This means not only forgiving someone who has hurt you, but extending some measure of grace to someone who has fallen into sin or shame.  This does not mean we tolerate the sin or continue allowing the sin to take control of their lives. However, this does mean gently pointing them back to Christ and helping them to repent of their sin.  One way someone can help another not repeat a sin and/or be repentant of it is to help them come to a realization that they don’t need the sinful habit/attitude/ behavior to make them fulfilled or happy. For instance, if someone is an alcoholic because they are still mourning a breakup of a marriage or a dating relationship, you can help the person by showing them how much Jesus Christ loves them and wants the best for them.  You can do this by first encouraging them to give up drinking and go to AA meetings and/or get treatment for this problem, but you can also additionally help them by showing bible verses on how much God loves everyone and how He (God) would make them feel joyful and fulfilled in ways the partner or spouse couldn’t and can’t.

4.) Realize you are no better than anyone else, even if you are a Christian.—This is because it is only in Christ that we have ANY righteousness at all! Be humble. This means not only being honest with your shortcomings, but also aiming always to reflect more and more of Christ. Remember that you yourself were once also lost and an outcast, and know how that felt like to you. If a Christian forgets where he or she came from before he or she met Christ, he or she will tend to be more self-righteous and less discerning of his or her OWN sins.

5) Find common ground- Instead of just telling someone how they are different or are “diverting”  from Christianity, see if you can find something you can both agree on. See if you can even find some common interests in common. That will not only create a bond between you and the other person, but it will also help you to see things from a different perspective (though you don’t have to necessarily agree with it) and help you to be less judgmental of them.

I hope this will help you in helping others feel loved and cared about by you, and to anyone who has been hurt by the church, another Christian, and/or me, I am deeply sorry and I hope you will give us another chance.

From Ignorance To Faith: My testimony

Disclaimer: This is my personal testimony of how I became a Christian. Please no judgmental or disparaging comments about me or anyone else I write about here, or your comment will be deleted. Thank you. Also, I have written and re-written my testimony over many years, to make it more current and add things God has been teaching in my life. The most recent revisions I made was yesterday (April 5, 2017), with a few tweaks here and there today. Enjoy!

Before Christ : Life had no meaning. I was bored, and because of that and other reasons I wanted to end it all. Schoolwork was piling up, and I felt like no one really cared about me, except maybe my family. In one of my diary entries that I wrote when I was still in high school, I had written: “ I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”
God didn’t really have a place in my life. My schoolwork and my grades were my idols with what I was trying to fill up that God shaped hole.. I never went to CCD or any other religious class, so I also held the commonly-believed notion that I was a good person and that because of this, I would automatically go to heaven if I died. My family and I rarely went to church, although I wanted to go more, but generally I felt I was okay spiritually. But in Jr. high school till my sophomore year at high school, I felt more and more depressed. After that, I felt a little happier and found solace in music, but after awhile I just knew that wasn’t going to really satisfy me for long.
Bible Study: When a friend invited me to a bible study, I decided to attend just to see what would happen and to make her happy. When I went into the Bible Study at school, I felt stupid for not knowing what the others had already known. I knew then I had to know more about Christianity and if I wanted to really know Jesus Christ.
“Legalism” Problems: While I started to listen to Christian music, I began to have a legalistic attitude towards things. I began to judge those who listened to explicit music and ‘nsync as “bad” and “against God and all things good.” I became very hypocritical online and started cursing and swearing to those online (especially the ‘’NSYNC fans and those that made fun of Christianity and Christian music. NOTE: I don’t do that anymore, nor do I care one way or another about other people’s music tastes). Worse yet, one of the bad messages I wrote at the site became a featured message on that site. I don’t really think I was a Christian at the time, or I was still very young and uninformed in my faith.
The Happening-This, by far, had the biggest influence on me when I was still young in the faith. I learned how to really love and show compassion to others. I learned that the type of music a person listens to is not reasonable grounds for judgment or condemnation. I learned it’s the personality and the godliness of a person that really matters. God led me to be actively involved in Happening activities, and later, at school, with aiding for a teacher and disabled students. It was during these times that I felt I really accepted God’s gift, Jesus Christ into my life, accepted His forgiveness for my wrongdoings, and grew in my faith.
The fall: My first semester at my college was almost a disaster. I felt like I had no friends and that I should maybe drop out of school.. People who were friends with me before (I felt) were slowly distancing themselves from me. They got tired of me because I was always depressed and sick. I threw up the cafeteria food, but I wasn’t bulimic. I felt sick and utterly hopeless except that God was with me. I thought I had not really accepted Christ. I felt alone.
The rise: When I went to Praise and Worship the next semester, I felt a renewal in my faith and in Christ. Again, I started to realize I needed God and to take him more seriously, instead of going to self-pity or self-centeredness. I gained interest in knowing about Catholicism. I enjoyed talking about my faith with others.
Dave Burchett: I accidentally went across his book “When Bad Christians Happen To Good People” one day when I was looking in the SWAN catalog (An online search catalog that enables one to borrow things from other libraries in a certain area), but, as it turned out, it was the best book I had ever read, aside from the Bible. God has taught me a lot through this book. His book taught me what genuine Christianity really was, and why forcing faith on or ridiculing non-Christians never works.
While I was growing in my faith outside of a formal church service, I felt I wasn’t really growing in the church I went to. Also, I felt I really didn’t know as much as the others at church. I felt bored and cynical towards the church because of this. I felt most people (including me) were only going to go through the motions there. Despite my friends’ urges that I stay in the Catholic Church (and I respect their beliefs), I didn’t feel like it really fit me.
Evangelical Church– I went to an e-free church for about three years. At first, I really liked it. But as time went on, it was apparent to me that this church wasn’t a good fit for me. Also, I didn’t feel the sermons challenged me enough anymore.
New Song Church-Then I went to NewSong. I think they emphasize the need for salvation from our sins, and the cross which in my previous two churches was not emphasized as much. Pastor Marty and his wife Stephnie left New Song to pursue church planting and other ministries in 2008. We had THE BEST interim pastor the church could have had at the time- Pastor Marty Voltz. He and his wife Shari really helped New Song through a particularly trying time and imparted his wisdom to the pastor at the church at the time, Pastor Frank Taylor. At first I didn’t trust Pastor Frank, but as time grew, he and his wife Stephanie proved to be not only very trustworthy, but also one of the most humble and genuine Christians I had ever met in my whole life! However, he left after being called to be a pastor in Maryland…and New Song became absorbed by my previous church I attended, and many people (and I) felt it was time to leave. I left after about 10 years being there. It was very painful and trying for me, as I had to leave a lot of people, but I felt that God had other plans for me.

Epiphany of grace -Though I have been a Christian for awhile, it has only been recently that I finally understood some part of what grace was. I knew intellectually that it was unmerited favor given by God to save us from Hell via His sacrificing Jesus on the cross. However, I didn’t know how it was supposed to impact one’s life very well, that is until I watched the movie “The other man” which showed me the consequences of idolatry, and especially when I read the book “Jesus +Nothing=Everything” by Tullian Tchvidijian. I realized I needed to forgive people that I felt hurt me in the past. More than that, I realized I was free. Free of the worry about what other people thought of me because His is the only opinion that matters above all else. Free of the worry about my future because I know God will take care of me. Free of bitterness and unforgiveness because I know God will make things right in His perfect timing and that He will heal all my hurts.
Tullian Tchividjian says in his book Jesus +Nothing=Everything- “Because of the gospel we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, to prove ourselves to people, to make people think we are something that we are not.” This is because I have security in that God still loves me even when I miss the mark (ie.. sin) and even though I know I don’t deserve to enter heaven or even His presence. God doesn’t love me more or less depending on how “good” I am to Him because He doesn’t see my imperfections, but Jesus’ perfection! I am free to be me without reservation! I don’t need to worry about earthly things so obssesively anymore because I have an even greater better life waiting for me on the other side with Him and because even here He is still with me. That is the gospel!

Independent Baptist Church– Now, I go to Independent Baptist Church. It’s very different from New Song was, but still good. I have met some very good people here, and Pastor David Shoaf’s (as well as the other pastors and speakers) sermons and bible studies are very good and biblical. His son (also a pastor at the church) helped me to have a more fulfilling devotional time with my God. God is also using people at my current church and my time with Him (God) to help serve people at my job as a sales associate.

However, I’m still not perfect, of course-just forgiven. I still battle pride and occasional thoughts of revenge-particularly against those I hear on the news that abuse children. However, I also learned that the world is not my real home and how to be more caring and compassionate to those who feel lost, alone, rejected, ridiculed, and abused as well as to everyone else.

How To Be Joyful

When someone is smiling and joyful most of the time (because no one I know is genuinely happy all of the time), we may wonder why they are that way. We may be a little envious of their joy, but there is no need to be. We can have joy too, even in the midst of our pain and struggles. Here are 7 things I have noticed about how people I have known or even me personally have been able to successfully cultivate joy. Note: These may be difficult to implement sometimes, but the more one practices, the easier it will be in the long run. And, no, I have by no means been perfect at any of these 7 ways of cultivating joy, but I am working on them.

1.) Realize everything you have and/or get is a gift, and is not really anything one earns or deserves.- When you realize that each thing you get or are entrusted with is a gift, without having an “entitlement” attitude (an attitude marked by the “I deserve it; give it to me or else no one is happy attitude” ) about everything, I learned that you are able to appreciate each blessing you are given more, because that is what the grace of God does–gives abundantly to those undeserving. You would also value each person, thing and situation as a blessing because you understand that God is in them, and you would understand how much He sacrificed (i.e. His Son) in order for you to have that blessing or even a breath of life and a heartbeat!

2.) When dealing with a difficult person, always try to find something good about him or her.-– This is what I dub the “Rachel Scott principle,” in honor of one of my heroes of the faith I had blogged about a while ago. She had said something like that we should always find the Light in someone. This may be very difficult if this person is especially difficult, but persist anyway. You will always find at least 1 thing that’s redeemable about him or her. When you do find that good thing, try to encourage them through this quality and cultivate that redeemable thing.

3.) In a difficult situation, always try to see if you can learn something from it.-For instance, if you are dealing with losing a loved one, you may find that you learn to treasure the moments you have with the people who are still in your life more. Also, if you are dealing with abuse or rejection, you may learn to have more compassion for others going through the same things you are and to value people more in contrast to the person or persons abusing you. I’m not saying that these situations are good or even desirable, but that there is always something good to learn from a situation, even a really bad one.

4.) Help others in need-The more one is able to invest in others’ lives, the more joyful I find these people are. Even if for some reason you are not able to invest a lot, one still can pray for or encourage another human being. Don’t forget about people who are hurting or suffering, but help them find joy in their lives, and cheer them on as the joyful moments in their lives show up.

5.) Do what you enjoy– Always find some time to do what you enjoy, what you like to do, what your passion is. This is not to say you may not have times where you can’t do these things right that second, or that you won’t have to do some things you don’t like.  However, do find some time to do what you enjoy so you can recuperate after a stressful situation and find  joy in other situations as well.

6.) Do everything wholeheartedly-This means when (and if) you work, do it diligently and with passion (i.e. with everything you have!) , setting goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them. This also works for doing household chores, schoolwork, and other things one does to either maintain oneself or serve others. Also, when you help others, always try to do it with a smile and the attitude to match. Don’ t do things half-heartedly or “just because you have to.”

7.) Live with a purpose.- When you live with a particular aim or purpose in mind, everything you say and do ultimately matters. For instance, personally, I live to glorify God, and all these things I do hopefully meets that purpose. When you live to have a good, positive influence on the people around you, all your goals and priorities will be to that end.  If you feel aimless in your life, I would ask yourself what you are passionate about. Are you passionate about God? Family? Combating injustices? art? science? Cultivate your life to that purpose.